James Bond at 50

October 5, 2012 by  

James Bond at 50, Fifty years ago today James Bond first hit the big screen. In that time, thanks to the original vision of producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, the 007 franchise has grown to become worth an estimated £1bn. According to its producers, the key to its success is in constantly refreshing the original formula – while also constantly referring back to the original text.

Cubby’s daughter Barbara told Sky News they always refer to Ian Fleming’s stories when they are unsure where next to take the spy.

Daniel Craig portrays a darker Bond character
“That’s what Cubby used to say, whenever you have a problem, go back to Fleming and you’ll find the solution. And it’s worked. Whenever we’re stumped, we re-read the novels and get a hit of Fleming and the solution usually comes.”

Michael G Wilson, Cubby Broccoli’s stepson and Bond producer, says Fleming was not only a great writer he was also very knowledgeable about his subject matter.

“He was a great storyteller, he created a wonderful character but he also knew the whole world of the secret service, having worked in it during the Second World War,” he said.

“He was an accurate writer and could encapsulate things in a very short amount of time.”

Despite 007’s longevity, the films have had many near-death experiences, just like its hero. There have been personal rifts, financial woes and multiple incarnations.

There have been 22 films and six actors who have played Bond. The film spy has become a worldwide phenomenon, with the cars, gadgets and girls becoming embedded in popular culture.

But Fleming’s original books were not received particularly well by critics, something his niece Kate Grimond says the author found quite difficult.

“They were rather despised and rather controversial, the literary set didn’t like them at all but people bought them,” she said.

“They were rather ahead of their time. He wrote in very short sentences and this was mocked at the time but it’s been emulated ever since.

“I think he was quite often hurt by it but he had a great urge to write the early books and he also longed to get it onto the big screen.”

Fleming’s depiction of Bond as a dark and brooding secret agent has not always translated to the screen. Over the years some of the films have been criticised for being too far-fetched and out of step.

However, Daniel Craig has gone back to the original character for his portrayal of 007. He told me Skyfall is going to be something special.

“We’ve just tried to make the best movie,” he says. “We’re (with director Sam Mendes) both huge Bond fans. It’s the 50-year celebration so that’s some pressure but it’s a nice pressure to have.”

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